My name is Anna Benson and I am studying with AIFS in Granada, Spain. I chose this program so that I can immerse myself in the Spanish language in the hopes of gaining back some of the skills I have lost from lack of use of the language. So far I have truly gotten an immersive experience and while it has been an extremely difficult adjustment I truly think it will pay off in the end.
Before arriving in Spain I was told that the program I had signed up for was designed for students to practice their Spanish and no prior knowledge of the language was needed. The fact that no prior experience was required was the reason I had chosen the program because I came here with my best friend, who is also a College of Charleston student, but whom has absolutely no background in Spanish. We were thinking that the town of Granada must be a pretty bilingual city based on the way the program was being marketed. Because of this I did not spend any time trying to refresh my Spanish, which was a big mistake and lead to some serious shock.
I arrived alone two days before the start of the program because I was concerned about being jet lagged for the first day of school and wanted to give my body a few days to adjust and explore. So when I got off the 9 hour plane ride I was exhausted and ready to sleep but then I had to find my way to the bus station so that I could take the two hour bus ride from Malaga where the airport is to Granada, where I am living. Immediately when I stepped off the plane I realized that not a single person around me was speaking English and to my surprise most signs were not in English and Spanish but rather only in Spanish. This made me very nervous but after wandering around a little I found my way to the bus then somehow managed to get a taxi to my home stay. When I arrived at the home stay I rang the doorbell excited to finally see someone who I could speak my native language with and have a place to relax. But when I was greeted at the door I quickly realized that they did not speak even a singular word of English. At this moment I felt defeated, I was alone in a foreign country where I was not fluent in the language, I did not know how to get around and at this point there was a chance that the friend I planned to come with could no longer come due to a personal emergency.
Even though I was freaked out I was able to communicate with my host mom that I needed to go get a new SIM card for my phone so that I could use it to call my family. She told me she would take me and as we walked down the street she tried to point things out to me but I felt so lost and confused. When we arrived at the phone store she talked to the man for me in Andalusian styled Spanish which I really struggled to understand. The only sentences of the whole conversation that I seemed to understand were when he gestured to me and asked her why I was in Spain if I couldn’t speak any Spanish and then proceeded to tell her that maybe I should have stuck to an English speaking country, which really made me feel great about my current circumstance. But regardless she was able to get the SIM card for me and I went home to call my parents. As soon as I heard my mom’s voice I broke into tears and told her that I was ready to go home, I felt lost, alone, embarrassed and exhausted.
Since this my arrival which was only two weeks ago I have grown my Spanish skills, I have grown to love my host family, my friend was able to come meet me, I met the other students in my program and I have never been happier. I am currently on a bus from Granada to Malaga so that I can get on a plane to then travel to Majorca for the weekend. Although the first few days were extremely hard for me I am so glad that I came and this is shaping up to so far be my favorite semester of undergraduate!